So I guessed who Mr Brown was on page 2. Was I supposed to? Was it supposed to remain a mystery? “Mr Brown” is the mysterious benefactor of orphan Victoria (then 14, but 18 when the book starts). It’s a similar theme to Daddy Long Legs. Victoria finishes school, paid for by Mr Brown, and gets a job working for a widow called Kate, whose dark, arrogant barrister cousin Robert (30s) keeps popping up and eventually doing a bit of chaste seducing of Victoria.
Robert/”Mr Brown” later confesses that he had it mind to educate Victoria as a potential future bride since first seeing her at fourteen. Because he’s bitter about women.
“…it could, I suppose, be judged the height of eccentricity to go to such lengths to provide oneself with a suitable marriage partner.”
She stared at him disbelievingly, not very sure if he wasn’t still enjoying a private joke at her expense, and he added with sudden gentleness: “Don’t look so incredulous… that, to you, must seem an unromantic way of going about things, but as I’d fallen out of love with a rather resounding crash, it seemed quite sensible then to insure against the future.”
“I see. Wrapping up the next possible contender in cotton wool until you were ready.”
His smile was a little wry, and he momentarily hunched his shoulders as though he felt a draught from the open window.
“Well, not quite so cold-blooded as that, and I was always prepared for my plans miscarrying, hence the cotton wool.”
As Sara Seale novels go, this one is middling. The Victoria-not-guessing-Brown=Robert thing is increasingly dreary, and the subplot of Kate and her dreary doctor is drearier still.